The proposed initiative to repeal the individual mandate as part of the 2006 Massachusetts health reform law has failed to gather sufficient signatures to get a place on the ballot next year.
In an email to supporters yesterday, the “Massachusetts Against the Individual Mandate” (MAIM – seriously?) group, sponsored by Mass Citizens for Life, acknowledged that they were not able to get enough volunteers to gather the 69,000+ signatures needed. The effort never seemed to take off. For example, their Facebook page peaked at 34 “friends”, and their website stop adding posts in mid-October.
This campaign had to swim upstream against broad support in Massachusetts for health reform. Polls have repeatedly shown supermajority support for the law in general, and majority support for the individual mandate. It’s telling that despite the huge uproar against the mandate in national politics, not a single bill has been introduced in the Massachusetts legislature to repeal the mandate or the health reform law.
We know what it takes to gather the signature to put a ballot initiative in play. In 2005 and 2006, HCFA and the MassACT! Coalition (website still up, for history’s sake) collected 138,000 signatures in an all-volunteer effort that engaged hundreds of supporters throughout the Commonwealth. It took a massive campaign, with dedicated volunteers stalking town dumps, street fairs, malls and going door-to-door. A poll had shown 62% support for our initiative, with just 33% opposed. In the end, our effort made a major difference in getting a strong bill approved by the legislature. As former speaker DiMasi told the New York Times when Chapter 58 passed, “I used the threat of the ballot measure to pressure the business community. I told them you’d better do something or you’re going to lose the ballot question.”
(P.S. – I wasn’t an uninterested observer of the MAIM effort. Now it can be revealed that I had more than just policy concerns riding on their signatures.)